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Benin Election Campaign Marked by Competition, Doubts, Violence

Campaigning for local elections in Benin has been marked by tight competitions, one outbreak of violence and doubts over how politicians can change daily life. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

The campaign was in full swing this week for an event by Cotonou ruling party candidate Jerome Dandjinou.

The director of Cotonou's port promised help for what he called the infinite number of poor, programs for youth and women empowerment, as well as better public transportation for all.

In an another campaign event, his main adversary, current Cotonou mayor and former president Nicephore Soglo, said a mayor's work is difficult and cannot be done overnight, and that people will get lasting change if he gets another five-year term.

His party's slogan translates as the sun rises full of force, and we are doing well. The party's name is Benin's Renaissance.

At the start of the campaigning for the April 20 vote, President Boni Yayi called for peaceful, transparent, just and credible elections.

He said he wanted the process to be a celebration of democracy, with rival politicians being adversaries and not enemies.

But following the death of a mayor in the central town of Glazoue, riots broke out on April 11, led by ruling party militants who thought foul play had caused their mayor's death. The mayor had been seeking re-election, but apparently died of natural causes. Another person died of wounds sustained during the violence.

Interest in the election is not shared by all.

One woman in Cotonou said she understands nothing of local politics and is not sure what exactly elected officials are doing. These feelings are widespread, as many had high hopes when President Yayi took power two years ago, promising an economic overhaul. But widespread poverty persists, and frustrations are growing with rising prices.

A total of 4 million electors will be able to choose thousands of village, neighborhood, town and municipal representatives.

Two other main political forces are the Party for the Renewal of Democracy and an alliance known as the G13, aligning themselves with 13 dissident lawmakers from the ruling party.